Roof Types 101 – The Complete Guide

When you build a new house, add an addition, or retrofit an existing one, picking out the correct roof type can be much more challenging than many people realize. Roofs do so much more than just serving their most practical and basic purpose of protecting everyone inside the house and the house itself from the elements. You may not realize that your roof’s shape has a big impact in defining your home’s overall style and look. Also, certain roof types can give you more living space.

Certain roof types work to make your home more energy efficient, resilient, and weatherproof. This short guide to the different roof types will help you understand your available choices. You’ll also be able to use it to identify the best roof type for your garage, home, shed, or business. We’ll also touch on the best roofing materials for the different roof types. 

1. Bonnet Roof

Bonnet roofs are roof types that are also known as kicked-eaves. This is a double sloped style that puts the lower slope at a less steep angle than the upper one. The lower slope will hang over the side of your home, and the overhang makes a great cover for an open porch underneath it. These roof types are not very popular with modern house designs. You can see them used in regions of Mississippi and Louisiana where they’re used in French Vernacular. 

Benefits: 

  • The upper slope on this type of roof gives you extra living space, or it allows you to have vaulted ceilings or a small attic. It’s great for side windows or dormers. There are overhanging eaves that gives your porch protection, and they can also ward off water damage. Water will run easily from the slopes and modified hip structure to make it very durable. 

Drawbacks:

  • You’ll need more building materials for the complex design, and it’s more time-consuming to create. So, this roof type is much more expensive than other types. There are valleys where the two slopes meet that water can pool in. So, you have to take extra caution to waterproof these areas. 

Suggested Materials:

  • You can make this roof from almost any material available. This includes metal, shingles, and natural stone work. 

1 Bonnet Roof
Building with a bonnet by George Roger Gilbert / CC BY 2.0

2. Butterfly Roof

Butterfly roofs feature a V-shape that gets constructed out of two tandem pieces that the contractor angles up on the outside. The midsection gets angled downward where the two pieces meet to form a valley. This mimics the look of a butterfly’s wings when they fly. It’s very popular on tropical, eco-friendly, or modern home designs due to the futuristic look. 

Benefits: 

  • The upper angels on the outer edges let you use bigger windows for your home, and this reduces your utility bills while giving you an open feel. The valley allows you to collect rainwater if you live in drought-prone areas. It’s an environmentally-friendly design because you can incorporate water collection systems and solar panels. 

Drawbacks:

  • This is a more expensive design due to how complex it is. Maintenance is more expensive, as is the upfront costs. You’ll have to routinely check the drainage system for clogs or water can pool and leak. If you don’t, it can weaken the pillars over time. It’s also more difficult to regulate temperatures throughout your home. 

Suggested Materials: 

  • To keep this roof watertight, you’ll need to use one continuous, solid membrane. Hot air-welded PVC is very popular, as is standing seam metal panels. You can install PV solar panels if you go with the standing seam design. 

2 Butterfly Roof
aalborg 05a, arne jacobsen, 1956. By seier+seier / CC BY 2.0

3. Combination Roof

A combination roof type is very popular because it gets designed using several roofs on the same structure for practical and aesthetic reasons. For example, you could have a gable roof over dormers with a hip roof and skillion stretching over the porch. The price will depend on how complex the project is, which roof combinations you pick for your home, and the materials you pick out. 

Benefits: 

  • You can add several different architectural styles to one house to make it more eye-catching. It’s also a nice way to incorporate the best type of roof for a specific area of the home. What roof type works best for your main roof may now work as well for your porch or garage. 

Drawbacks: 

  • The more complex the design is and the more roof types you add in, the more the price will climb. Adding different roof types and pitches will require that you purchase more building materials to cover the area. You’ll also pay out more in labor costs. Joining roofs also adds ridges and valleys for water to pool and leak

Suggested Materials: 

  • The materials you use will depend on the combination of roof types you pick out. It could be metal, shingles, tile, standing seam, and more. You should talk to your contractor to find out which materials they recommend for your combination roof. 

3 Combination Roof
DSC00907 – Musquodoboit Harbour Railway Museum by Dennis Jarvis / CC BY-SA 2.0

4. Curved Roof

A curved roof works and looks a lot like a Shed or Skillion roof would. However, it has curved planes on it. This allows you to create a very modern design aesthetic with a creative and unique twist to it. The amount of curve you have with this roof type can vary from an arch shape down to a very slight curve. Your architect will give you recommendations for how curved it should be. 

Benefits: 

  • This roof is very aesthetically pleasing to the eye. It can lend a very subtle shape to the home at the same time. You can use this roof type to cover the entire home or a single section of the house, like an arched entrance. You can customize it for your region because it gets designed by a builder or architect.

Drawbacks: 

  • The cost of a curved roof type can go up very quickly, depending on how complex the design is, the size of the house, and how many sections you want curved. 

Suggested Materials: 

  • The best material you can get for this roof type is metal. It’s relatively easy to bend and shape metal sheets into any form you like. This will also greatly reduce how much maintenance you have to do on your roof. 

4 Curved Roof
Ickworth Park (NT) by Karen Roe / CC BY 2.0

5. Dome Roof

The next roof type we have is the dome roof. This is a polygonal that features an inverted bowl shape. If you want something aesthetically pleasing and unique, go for this style. The design features on this roof can work well with just about any style. It works well if you have a gazebo, cupola, or a crow’s nest that you want to showcase. 

Benefits: 

  • This is a very durable design that allows water to flow right off it without it pooling, and it does the same thing for snow, sleet, and ice. Since it’s such a unique look, you’ll get a beautiful design that allows you to have higher ceilings inside your home. 

Drawbacks: 

  • There is a very high complexity level with this roof type. Unfortunately, this will drive up the price for materials and labor. However, you could get a prefabricated one, depending on the structure. This can lower the cost without sacrificing quality. 

Suggested Materials: 

  • You can create your dome-shaped roof out of metal, shingles, or glass. However, if you want the least amount of maintenance possible, go for a metal design. Not only will it last long, but you won’t have to worry about upkeep as much. 

5 Domed Roof
MacMillan Bloedell Conservatory at night by Eyesplash / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

6. Flat Roof

Flat roofs are completely flat with zero pitch to them. They have a very slight pitch to allow water to run off and drain into your gutters. You’ll typically find this roof type on commercial or industrial buildings. However, it’s possible to install them in areas that get high or low rainfall amounts on residential houses. A flat roof can provide a huge amount of outdoor living space, so don’t dismiss them straight away. 

Benefits: 

  • You can turn a portion of your roof into an outdoor garden, patio, or partially enclose it to get a penthouse room. You can place cooling and heating units on the roof to keep them out of sight, and you can easily install PV solar panels to make the house more energy-efficient. They’re easier to build with fewer materials, so the cost is lower. 

Drawbacks: 

  • There is a very low pitch on this roof that makes it prone to water damage and leaking. They’re not a good choice for areas that get a lot of rain or snow. Maintenance costs are higher, as are ongoing roof repairs and replacement than other styles. 

Suggested Materials: 

  • Ensuring that your flat roof is waterproof is your number one priority. You want to use a material that has no seams and a continuous design. The most used materials include roll roofing, tar and gravel, PVC, metal sheets, EPDM rubber membrane, and TPO. 

6 Flat Roof
Stunning iron lace work on a three storey veranda hotel in Rockhampton by denisbin / CC BY-ND 2.0

7. Gable Roof

Also called a peaked or pitched roof, this roof type is one of the most popular available in the United States. They have a triangular shape to them that is instantly recognizable. There are a few types of gable roofs you can choose from, including: 

  • CrossedThis design features two gable roof sections that go together to form a right angle. The two ridges sit perpendicular to one another, and heights, pitches, and lengths may differ between the gables. 
  • Dutch – This is a hybrid roof type of the hip and gable roof. You’ll put a gable roof at the top of your hip roof to enhance the look and give yourself more space. 
    • Front – This gable gets put at the entrance of your home. You’ll typically see this style on the Colonial-type houses. 
  • Side – This is a very basic pitched roof type. You’ll get two equal sections that get pitched at an angle to meet in the middle of the house in a ridge. You can leave the triangle section open or enclose it, depending on whether you want an open or boxed gable roof. 

Benefits: 

  • This roof type will very easily shed snow and water. They also give you more space to install vaulted ceilings or have an attic. They allow for more ventilation, and the simple design makes them easy to build with fewer labor and material costs. 

Drawbacks: 

  • These roof styles aren’t good for hurricane-prone areas. If they don’t make the frame correctly, the roof can collapse with high winds. Winds can also peel materials away from the roof, and they can create uplift under the roof to detach it right from your walls. 

Suggested Materials: 

  • You can make this roof type with almost any material available. They work well with metal, asphalt shingles, concrete tiles, or clay tiles

If you live in a snowy region, you want to have at least a 40° angle or 10/12 pitch to help the snow slide off the roof and reduce the chances of leaks. 

7 Gable Roof
Wassermühle Federlohmühlen by willi_bremen / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

8. Gambrel Roof

Better known as a barn roof, this roof type has two different slopes to it. Unlike the mansard design that has four sides, this roof has two. The lower side of this roof has a very steep slope to it that is almost vertical. The upper slope on the roof is much lower. You’ll see this type of roof on barns, log cabins, farmhouses, Georgian style, and Dutch Colonial styles too. 

Benefits: 

  • You’ll get additional living space for a loft, attic, or garret, and it’s very simple to frame out if you choose to. There are only two roof beams with gusset joints in this roof type, and this makes the construction very simple and straightforward. They work well for outdoor storage buildings and sheds, and the shape gives you more storage room without taking up much more space. 

Drawbacks: 

  • This roof isn’t recommended for areas that see significant snowfall or heavy winds. Under extreme pressure, this roof type will collapse. You have to have damage inspections each year, and you should add windows to let more light in. This increases the chances for leaks and water damage in your home.   

Suggested Materials: 

  • The materials you pick out will depend on the house style. Slate, asphalt, or wooden shingles are very popular. You can also use metal to cut down on the material costs and maintenance needs. 

If you do live in an area that sees extreme weather, you should have your contractor install reinforced trusses on the roof. This is especially true on the upper pitch portion of the roof. 

8 Gambrel Roof
New Door by joshua_putnam / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

9. Hip Roof

If you have a hip roof type on your home, it means you have slopes on all four sides of the roof. The sides will all have equal lengths to them, and they come together and attach at the top of the house to form a ridge. There are a few types available, including: 

  • Crossed – This is very similar to what you’d get with a cross gable roof type. You’ll use separate hip roofs if your home has separate wings. The line where the two parts meet is a valley. Proper waterproofing is essential because water can pool here
  • Half – A half hipped roof type is just a standard hip roof where two sides get slightly shortened to create eaves. 
  • Simple – This is the most common hip roof type. It has a triangle on two sides and a polygon on two sides. All of the sides meet at the top to give you a simple ridge. 

Benefits: 

  • These are more stable than gable roofs because the inward slope on each side makes it more durable and sturdier. They work well in high snow and wind areas, and the roof slant lets snow and water slide right off without leaving standing water. They can offer more living space with a crow’s nest or dormer. 

Drawbacks: 

  • These are more expensive roof types to build over gable roofs. They’re more complex and need more building materials. If you add a dormer, you’ll need additional seams that can allow water to leak in and cause damage. 

Suggested Materials:

  • You can cover this roof type with almost any roofing material you have, just like gable roofs. Tiles, metal, or shingles all work very well. 

You’ll need the correct installation and proper maintenance to stop any minor issues you have from turning into major issues. If you live in a hurricane-prone area or one that gets strong storms, you’ll need a pitch that falls between an 18.5° to 26.5° angle, or a 4/12 to 6/12 pitch. 

9 Hip Roof
2 Millikin Place, Edward P. Irving House, Decatur, Illinois by Randy von Liski / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

10. Jerkinhead

This roof type pulls in elements from a hip roof and a gable roof. You can think of it as a gable roof that comes with hipped ends that are cut short and have a downward turn to them, or you can think of it as a hip roof with two shorter sides. You may hear it called an English hip roof or a clipped gable roof. 

Benefits: 

  • This roof type is much more stable than any gable roof is. By turning the point down or clipping it, the roof gets very resistant to wind damage. It also gives you more space than you’d get with a hip roof. There is more living space in the higher pitch, and they add architectural interest to any home you install them on.  

Drawbacks:

  • The costs for labor and materials to build this roof are higher since it takes elements from two different styles and puts them together to make it more complex. 

Suggested Materials: 

  • You can use virtually any roofing material you’d like with this style. Your contractor can help you choose the best one to keep your material costs in check. 

10 Jerkinhead Roof
Wasson-McKay Place by Jeffrey Beall / CC BY-SA 2.0

11. Mansard Roof

This roof type is called a French roof, and it’s a four-sided design that has a double slope on each side. These slopes meet to form a very low-pitched roof. The lower slope is also a lot steeper than the upper one, and the sides can be curved or flat, depending on your chosen style. They come in several silhouettes, including concave, convex, or straight-angle. The windows are very important to let light in, and more upscale designs can feature trim, wood quoins, or decorative cut stones. 

Benefits: 

  • This roof type can give you a huge amount of more living space. Transforming this space into a garret or living quarters or a full attic is popular. You can have open or closed dormers to give it more visual interest. They’re a great choice for people who want flexibility for future additions. It also adds value to the house.

Drawbacks:

  • The lower pitched portion of this roof type isn’t great if you have a lot of snowfall. They cost more than typical roofs because of the details and embellishments. 

Suggested Materials:

  • Using unique materials like zinc or copper is very popular for the steep portion of the roof. This can be more expensive upfront, but you’ll have lower maintenance costs. Slate or wood shingles in a diamond pattern is nice, but you should avoid overlapping composition shingles. 

11 Mansard Roof
Den hvide by by malouette / CC BY-SA 2.0

12. Pyramid Roof

This is another type of hip roof where all four points on the roof come to a point at the top. There are no gables or vertical sides with this roof type. You’ll typically use this roof for smaller buildings like cabins, bungalows, pool houses, storage buildings, garages, or auxiliary structures. 

Benefits: 

  • This roof type is very resistant to strong winds. So, it’s a great choice if you live in either a high-wind or hurricane-prone area in the United States. You also get more space for ventilation, high ceilings, and attics. It can help reduce your energy costs too. 

Drawbacks:

  • The design on this roof is very complex, and this increases your costs. It’ll cost you more for both labor and materials with this roof type. 

Suggested Materials:

  • Almost any materials work well with this roof type. So, it all comes down to your desired look and design aesthetic. 

12 Pyramid Roof
Pyramids of rotterdam by P K / CC BY 2.0

13. Saltbox Roof

This roof has an asymmetrical design to it, and one side has more of a slightly sloping flat roof. The other side forms a lean to with gables. These are variations of early Cape Cod and Colonial designs. These roofs were originally built to get more space in the home. 

Benefits: 

  • The slope of this roof type makes it very easy for water to slide off the roof very quickly. This makes it a good choice for planting zones that get a lot of rain. It’s more durable due to the asymmetrical design, and it adds more living space. 

Drawbacks:

  • This design can be very tricky to get right, so this increases your building costs. Even though you get more living space, you won’t get as much as a pitched roof. You also get slanted ceilings in some rooms. 

Suggested Materials:

  • You can choose virtually any material to make this type of roof. 

13 Saltbox Roof
Rear View Strong Porter House by InAweofGod’sCreation / CC BY 2.0

14. Sawtooth Roof

This roof has two or more roofs that are parallel pitched, and the vertical and sloped surfaces alternate. The roof will resemble the side of a saw blade, as the name suggests. These were originally only on commercial industrial buildings, but now they’re a part of modern home design. 

Benefits:

  • You put windows in the vertical spaces of the roof, and this lets more natural light in. The higher peaks on this roof give you a loft living space or vaulted ceilings. It’s a good pick for homes with eco-friendly designs due to the natural light and various slopes. You can add geothermal heating systems or solar panels easily

Drawbacks: 

  • The different building materials and complex design will drive the price up. It’s also very high maintenance. Adding valleys, windows, or different slopes increases the chances of leaks. So, it’s not a good choice for areas with a lot of snow or rain. 

Suggested Materials: 

  • Depending on your house style, you can use steel, wood, or reinforced concrete for this roof type. 

14 Sawtooth Roof
Sawtooth Neighbourhood by Michael Coghlan / CC BY-SA 2.0

15. Skillion Roof

The final roof type you have is the skillion roof. It’s also called a lean-to or a shed roof, and you get a sloping, single roof that attaches to a taller wall. You can think of it as a more angled flat roof or a half pitched roof. You’ll find these roofs for sheds, porches, or home additions. They’re very popular in modern-style homes. 

Benefits:

  • They require less building materials and are easy to assemble to control your costs. The steep pitch lets snow or water slide off easily, so they’re good for high snow or rain regions. They also add aesthetic and architectural appeal to the home. 

Drawbacks:

  • The roof could get a pitch that is too high, and this can make your ceilings too low. If you only have a skillion roof in a high-wind area, you can run into issues with durability. 

Suggested Materials:

  • Because there is a steep incline on this roof type, roofing membranes and rubber skins are out. YOu can use standing seam for a more streamlined look over shingles and tiles. Also, it’s possible to install PV solar panels. 

15 Skillion Roof
Modern Skillion roofs by Bill Bradley / CC BY 3.0

Bottom Line

These 15 different roof types should give you an idea of the more popular options available on the current market. You can look them over and see which ones work best for your region. If you’re not 100% sure, don’t be afraid to bring in a professional and get their opinion so you get a durable and beautiful roof type for your home. 

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